Friday, 12 July 2019

Epiphany


I've entered a novel writing competition just now. I've entered plenty before, and to be honest it always ends the same way. However this time I really thought it would be different. This time I actually thought I had a really good chance of getting on the long-list. As it turns out I was wrong. This led me to wonder if I've been doing it wrong from the start. I mean the people who are running the competition have Twitter; they were putting all their favourite lines from the submissions on their twitter feed. It didn't really bother me that I didn't see my own lines on the twitter feed, but at the same time I was really hoping, like everybody else, that I would see something I'd written on there. And then comes 12th July, which is their announcement today for the number of submissions who’ve made it onto their long-list. I'm not going to lie, I was really hopeful. But as it turns out yet again I was to be soul-crushingly disappointed, and I did not make it.

To say that I was devastated might be overstating it, but as it sank in that it was yet another rejection, yet another time when someone had read what I had written and decided it wasn't good enough, I felt the clouds close over the top of my head, as they so often do.

One of the hardest things I have done in my life, and believe me there have been many hard things in my life, is to congratulate everybody who made it onto the long-list whilst simultaneously pretending that I wasn’t trying not to cry. It’s odd; I don’t think I actually had an emotional response that caused me to cry. It wasn’t like I was frustrated or angry or sad. I think I was just resigned to the fact that this is how it’s always going to be. On the plus side this means that I’m an also-ran, so I am helping other people to win competitions. You cannot come first if you're the only one in the competition, after all. But at some point it would be nice not to be an also-ran, although I honestly don't know what I would do if I won something.

After I’d send a tweet to congratulate everybody on getting onto the long-list, I had an epiphany. Just because you don’t win or you’re not picked does not mean that your writing is not good. Just because you don't win all you’re not picked does not mean that the work you've done, all the words that you’ve strung together, are in any way substandard or lacking. The creative arts and novel writing in particular is very subjective. We all know this; a friend at work can recommend their favourite TV show for example. They might go on and on about how amazing the writing is, how good the actors are, or how fantastic the finale is. And then you sit down to watch it and after 30 minutes decide that it's the worst pile of camel shit you've ever had to struggle through.

There are also the people who, say, give a movie a rotten tomatoes rating of 10%. And out of curiosity you end up watching this movie, and find that you really really enjoy it. I guess my point is that it’s the most hit and miss industry I can think of. Sometimes it feels like you're trying to get into the club of really good writers and therefore if you can't get in you must be crap. Sometimes it feels like the amount of rejections you've had must have already been an indication of how bad your writing is, and therefore you should stop.

This is where the epiphany comes in.

I'm sure I don't need to remind anybody that 50 Shades of Grey is an international phenomenon with books, and movies, and tie-ins, and all kinds of crap. What it also is, is complete and utter shit. If you have a tumbler account you may know what I mean. People were sharing the worst paragraphs or phrases that they came across in the books. To begin with for me it was pretty funny. Some of the descriptions and some of the grammar was so bloody awful all you could do was laugh. Afterwards of course you think this just isn't fair. There is no justice in the universe if this complete and utter pile of badly plotted, pretentious, hastily slapdash re-written personal fan-fiction can get published, and yet people who sit down and write original works with the funniest lines and the best presentation get passed over again and again and again.

Road by Larisa Koshkina on Pixabay
That's when I realised nobody should ever give up trying to get published if they believe the reason they’re not getting published is that they’re not any good. That is a lie. The reason you're not getting published is not because you’re crap. The reason you're not getting published is because everyone else is getting published. There are many reasons why other people get published over you. Some agents and some publishing houses need books that are “the next Harry Potter”, or the next 50 Shades of Grey. Therefore anything original that you have written is outside of their wheelhouse and they don't care. And that's okay, you know, because people have to focus on what they need and what they think they want. People are always asking me: Did you send it to the right agent? Well, Sherlock, I bother to read what the agent or publishing house wants before I decide whether to send my submission or not. First of all you have to start with an agency that wants fiction an not non-fiction. Then you narrow it down to people who want quirky or sci-fi. Then you narrow it down further to people who want first-time writers or female writers or character driven material. You see where I'm going with this.

Having sent my novel to many different agents I can say that it's always nice to get a response. It may be that they say something about the novel that may be helpful to you, for example “it was great and I enjoyed it but there was no sense of urgency”. That's when you just rewrite it and put more urgency in it. To be fair nearly 50% of the agents I have sent it to have had the time to get back to me with a response. If I don't get a response at all, I believe it's because the sheer number of submissions they must get, and have to read through, must make it nearly impossible to reply to every single one of us who send something in. And I'm okay with that.

The biggest thing I can take away from my epiphany today: maybe my work isn't shit. Maybe that's not the reason why I'm not getting published.

That, I have to say, is the most encouraging thing anyone could ever say about my writing.

I think that's it for today. I have drinking and partying and other things to do this weekend.

Peach and lube everyone. Soopytwist.

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay


Friday, 14 June 2019

Huff


I am not in a good mood.

Which is odd, because I should be. I have job satisfaction at work, a job that affords me a car and a house-share. I can even afford to go to the gym three times a week, which is helping with my chiropractic problems. I can afford a chiropractor, even.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s a Matrix thing - everything is too even, too uneventful, too boring. It’s not that it’s too good to be true, it’s just… there. It’ll always be just there.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m anhedonic. Things I used to enjoy doing don’t really bring me any joy. Of course this could just mean that my tastes have changed and I would no longer enjoy those things anyway. I mean, people change. But what if I am losing the ability to enjoy things? That worries me - it worried me all the way home from work yesterday in my 2 year old car. It went something like this:

https://pixabay.com/users/devanath-1785462/
I like writing. If I get the right idea I can write 6,000 words before I have to stop and check what time it is. This is how I pulled together all my notes, spare scenes and plans and wrote a 140,000 word novel over an Easter weekend. However it’s becoming increasingly difficult to write anything. I mean, I can, but I just don’t feel the pull I used to. There’s no muse, no catalyst, no unseen thing making me want to write about a favourite character. Does this mean I don’t have favourite characters any more?

I had 2. I mean, I wrote a whole novel about them - my own, not fan fiction. I’ve been trying to get it published since 2012, so on the whole I suppose you could call it a failure. But hey, let’s not dwell, but keep a stiff upper lip and keep trying, right? And I have been. But every so often you have to wonder why you’re just not getting it; of all the people who liked it, not one has taken it on. There’s a hint there, and I’m on the fence as to whether I should pack it all in as a bad job, or ignore all the signs and just keep trying to get it on a shelf somewhere, virtual or no.

But I digress. The characters in that book I felt were pretty fun and I enjoyed putting them through the ringer. However, at nearly all other things I feel apathetic. My go-tos in fan fiction haven’t really been blowing up my skirt either. And neither has anything else. I’m nearly a quarter into another original fiction novel, and every few months I come back to it, read it from scratch and enjoy it, and then when it stops I just think… Well, it was good but it’s just stopped. I don’t feel the need to finish it. I don’t feel the need to write or finish anything, for that matter.

That’s what I don’t like. That’s what makes me miserable at times - that’s the best word for it - miserable. There really nothing else in this universe that can truly cause the same amount of trodden-down, depressive apathy as listening to myself tell me that all my best writing days are behind me, and making me face the fact that I can’t seem to get up the will to do any more of it. I can’t leave unfinished stories alone - I’m constantly re-reading or trying to figure out how to carry them on, but I feel I can’t contribute anything more to anything, that when it runs dry it’s just… how it is.

And so it doesn’t go.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Where are we?


Just a catch-up really. Started going to the gym about 4 weeks ago - doing cardio and weight repetitions has really helped my neck/cervical nerve injury. My chiropractor is pleasantly surprised that I’m trying to help myself get better between my visits to him. Not a bad feeling for me, either.

Still not writing. But more on that later.

Doom 2016 PS4
Games - been getting in to Doom 2016 on PS4. Mostly because I’m stuck on Doom VFR on the PS4 Pro VR and need something to distract me from not having an active game. I’m one of those people who has a Serious Game and a Back-Up Frivolous Game running alongside, so when one’s not working out I can play on the other one while I run it through my head. You know what? Doom VFR and 2016 are the first Doom games I’ve played since Doom 2 on the PS2. How times change. And yet it’s good to see an updated Doom game for a modern generation.

Doom 2016 PS4
Which brings me to Lego Marvel Superheroes 2, and why I’m stuck on 95% and believe it’s as far as I can go. All that’s left are the aerial and car races, which I’ve discovered I can’t do due to not being able to judge distances on a flat screen with no discernible depth. Does anyone else have this problem? I really can’t see it something is supposed to be further away or closer than me to the screen unless my Lego character moves in front or behind it. I thought I was just shit at races, bad at handling the controls and adjusting or over-adjusting and that’s why I was missing gates. But then I realised I also miss overhanging ledges, or steps, or fall off narrow beams. Is this connected to 3D movies giving me a headache?

Anyway, that aside, the Lego games are still awesome. I haven’t got the new Lego DC Super-Villains game, but my sister reports that it’s small compared to the Marvel ones, and there’s less needed in order to complete it. However you do get to careen through lots of DC villains and she likes that. I won’t be rushing to buy it but I may get around to it.

Been modifying some t-shirts. I bought a load when I was on holiday and of course they’re all unisex, which just means men’s. If they were true unisex they would fit all shapes, but they don’t, they’re designed to fit men, so I wish people would stop calling them unisex and just call them men’s.

Anyway, rant aside - I buy shirts I like, and if they don’t have women’s then I buy the men’s and modify them when I get them home. Normally this includes changing it to a V neck (I’m not keen on round necks unless they’re proper large) and sewing new side seams to make them more of a babydoll shape. Done my Captain Marvel shirt and my Princess Rebel Leia shirt, so feeling productive.

The Red Dwarf cast
Telly - only seen the first episode of Good Omens but it’s a keeper and I really want to know what happens. The Queen soundtrack doesn’t hurt, and the actors and pretty much everyone involved is doing a fab job. The only problem is I accidentally started watching Red Dwarf on Netflix and now I’m stuck in a rerun - I only want to watch the next episode and that’s seriously crippling my ability to get stuck into anything else. I’ve already watched Lucifer season 4 twice since it came out in May, and apart from the odd movie at the local fleapit it’s been Lister limericks and Rimmer repartee all the way. It just makes me laugh - and there’s no pressure with it. Sometimes their own continuity isn’t great, so if I miss or forget a detail then who cares? All in all just fantastic entertainment, even 30 years later.

Then there’s Project Blue Book - sounds like my kind of stuff but right now it’s on a back-burner while Red Dwarf is on the go.

I think that’s about it for now. One day I’ll get back here and remind myself of all the movies I’ve seen, but that’s for another day.

Soopytwist, everyone.
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